Ben Yoskovitz of Instigator Blog is running the group writing project “What did you learn this year?” I thought his question was very appropriate for my learning blog, so here are my reflections on year 2006.
2006 was a year of new beginnings and new learning opportunities for my family. On December 13, 2005, we welcomed our baby girl into the world and began to learn about the joys and challenges of parenting (our two four-legged furry kids didn’t prepare us enough). Five months later, we relocated to a different state, my husband started a new job, I left mine and embarked on the balancing act of caring for my daughter and working to launch my own business. I picked up blogging along the way, which turned out to be a nice outlet for the frenzy of thoughts and ideas in my head. My blog is about learning, and who is a faster and better learner than a baby? She has taught me a few things about this subject, and I am happy to share our lessons from the crib.
- "Practice" is the name of the game. We’ve all heard: “Practice makes perfect.” Babies are wise, they somehow know it from the day they are born. My daughter started with practicing her communication skills and making her intent loud and clear, a bit too loud for my ears. With each new skill she learned, she exhibited the same effortless persistence, indicating that failure was not an option. Such attitude encourages learning. George Leonard in his book Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment writes about the value of practice: “Mastery is staying on the path.” Next time you need to learn a new discipline or a set of skills, remember this and rest assured that you already possess everything you need to succeed.
- Learning is a laughing matter. At which juncture on our way to adulthood did learning become serious and boring? That’s certainly not the way my baby views it. Learning is a fun and joyful activity for her. She learns through play. It turns out that positive emotions improve adult learning as well. A good learning game that makes participants engaged and relaxed can accelerate learning. It’s good to be a kid once in a while.
- There is more ways to learn than through words. Babies learn through observation, touch, smell, taste, interaction. My daughter loves music and dances every time she hears her favorite songs. She is learning coordination and rhythm. Adults also relate to information in multiple ways according to Dr. Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard University who wrote the book Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century. Every day, I am reminded that multisensory learning is the best.
- Curiosity drives learning. I am amazed at how curious and observant my baby is. I can read it in her face. “Where did the noise come from?” “What happens if I push this cup over the edge of the table?” “What does this stuff taste like?” I think adults are often too busy to be curious. When was the last time you put “oblige my sense of curiosity” in your to-do list? Maybe, we should give in to our curiosity more often even if it means that an hour disappears in pursuit of a random thought. William Wirt once said; “Seize the moment of excited curiosity on any subject to solve your doubts; for if you let it pass, the desire may never return, and you may remain in ignorance.”
- “Do, or do not. There is no try,” said Jedi Master Yoda in Star Wars. This lesson is about the mindset. Babies don’t try to do things, they do them. Even when it appears to me that my daughter is trying to walk, in her mind, she is walking. She is not thinking: “I am going to try to put that leg forward and see what happens.” She just does it. What happens if we eliminate “try” from our vocabulary and just do things to our best ability? Some good learning experience.
- Falls and bumps are just that: falls and bumps. They don’t mean we are failures. They are not evidence of a faulty character. They are part of life. Just get up and keep going, like babies do.
- Learning needs support. There are times when my baby wants me to hold her and comfort her. She needs my support, and she knows I am there for her. It gives her confidence and a sense of security. While our adult education system encourages competition, I think, we can all benefit from cooperative and supportive environment when we learn.
- When you don’t quite understand something, smile. My baby must think I am silly. She rewards me with her smile more often than I deserve it. Her smile is hard to resist. I believe, a sincere smile is the first step to true understanding: “I am not sure what you are saying, but I like you.” Thanks to my baby, I smile more these days.
What have your kids taught you about learning?